Posted by: jeb1 | June 14, 2011

Rooms With a Viewpoint From Wall Street Journal

Decorator showhouses are gold mines of inspiration. A veteran participant steals the best ideas from four of her favorite recent spaces


When people ask me for decorating advice, I tell them to run to their closest decorator showhouse. Every spring, all over the country, dozens of local interior designers are invited to participate in these inventive mix tapes. For an entry fee that’s usually around $25, you can tour the varied rooms and view the work of today’s best design talent, find mountains of decorating inspiration, discover tons of fabric and furniture resources and immediately put your newly acquired know-how to use in the gift shop.

Vote: Pick Your Favorite Room

See more details throughout the four rooms and vote for your favorite.

Here’s how it works: Designers bid on a room and if selected, they propose a design concept. Once the work begins they usually have about 30 days to complete the entire room. Designers fund their projects by seeking sponsorships, borrowing furniture or via self-financing. Proceeds from the entry fees go to a local charity, school, hospital or arts organization.

By any measure, showhouses are one of the greatest bargains for decorating junkies. In my 25 years in the industry, I have attended countless showhouses, participated in 14, written two books about them, worked on selection committees, raised money and chaired galas. I also just happen to enjoy them. This year I visited showhouses in Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and New York, where I serve on the committee for the Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse. In total, I saw more than 125 professionally decorated rooms as well as landscaped gardens, terraces and carriage houses. A few themes reared their heads: Palettes were generally subdued, succulents were the botanical du jour and many designers paid thoughtful attention to being “green.”

Here, I’ll take you through my favorite rooms from this year’s crop of showhouses.

—Ms. Moss is a designer and author.

Old-Meets-New Living Room

Designed by Barry Dixon, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Decorators’ Show House


Erik KvalsvikBarry Dixon’s drawing room welcomes guests for coffee during the day or a cocktail in the evening.



Warrenton, Va., decorator Barry Dixon’s drawing room possesses the well-worn elegance of a Venetian palazzo. A nuanced spring-green palette (think Robert Frost) welcomes guests for coffee during the day or a cocktail in the evening with plenty of conversation starters and inviting places to take a seat. The wall is draped floor to ceiling in luxe drapes, the soft gold tones an excellent frame for the lush Atlanta greenery outside. A dramatic chandelier of 18th-century lead crystal hangs from a fraying hemp rope, while a modern tripod floor lamp illuminates an antique grisaille wallpaper panel by Zuber. Upholstered screens evoke the ogee shape of windows on the Grand Canal. There is no timidity here in mixing old and new.

Laid-Back Lounge

Designed by Brad Ford, Kips Bay Decorator Show House, New York



Nick JohnsonBrad Ford created this sunny room with a single purpose: listening to music.



Entering the space Brad Ford called his “stereo lounge,” I felt like I’d walked onto the set of a 1970s beach movie. Mr. Ford, who started his interior design firm in 1998 after working for big names like Jed Johnson and Thad Hayes, has a livable approach that balances the functional and the sophisticated. He created this sunny room with a single purpose: listening to music. Its “rustic glamor,” as Mr. Ford describes the room’s style, makes you want to turn on the music and invite some friends over.

Elegant Library

Designed by Heather Hilliard, San Francisco Decorator Showcase


Michele Lee WilsonHeather Hilliard’s library has a stone fireplace flanked by windows.



Everyone has their definition of a perfect library and Heather Hilliard’s seems to be a haven marked by natural serenity. The scale of this room is generous but approachable. A large stone fireplace flanked by windows faces a large sofa, which is the room’s anchor and central seating area. Ms. Hilliard, a San Francisco-based designer, carefully chose each fabric based on its function. The unlined wool challis on the roman shades allows extra light in the room, the fabric’s texture enhanced by the incoming sun. Horsehair provides the finishing touch to benches designed by Ms. Hilliard. Leather, linen and silk velvet were used elsewhere. The parchment lampshades allow maximum light with minimal fuss.

Janet Mesic-MackieChristine Garrett Paschen’s space has barely a half dozen pieces of furniture, not including the daybed.



Cozy Nest

Designed by Christine Garrett Paschen, Lake Forest Showhouse, Ill.

Described by Evanston, Ill., decorator Christine Garrett Paschen as “a room to come home to,” this cozy space also invites you to escape mentally. A Chinese lantern, an Uzbeki ikat-print robe hung like a piece of art and a photo by Steve McCurry of an elephant and his caretaker all inspire you to imagine yourself somewhere far away. With barely a half dozen pieces of furniture, not including the daybed, some might say this room is sparse. I say it’s just right

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